Cataclysm is the WoW killer

How many times have you heard about some shiny new MMO that is about to hit the scene these last few years? It seems that every new MMO has someone wondering if it will be the WoW killer. That game that finally comes in and dethrones WoW as the king of MMO’s.

It is said that somewhere someone is designing the WoW killer.

It’s talked about it like it’s giant rock flying through space, intent on wiping out the dinosaur that is WoW.

Criminy folks, WoW is five years old. Let that sink in for a second.

If  WoW was a child it would be starting school this year.

WoW is older than 7% of the population of the United States (per 2008 census)

It’s technology, art, and mechanics are all based around a system put in place five years ago. It has been patched, updated, and duct taped together with hot-fixes for years.

It’s old.

 

Then the Cataclysm was announced, speeding towards Azeroth like that asteroid once headed towards Earth.

The game as you know it after the Cataclysm will be so different you would hardly recognise it as the same game.

That’s because it’s not.  Virtually nothing will remain unchanged from The game that was released in the fall of 2004.

They did not create an expansion, they created a whole new game.

 

At least we finally know who the WoW killer will be.

Magic 8 ball predicts the future

It was a dark and stormy boring night.

I sit here in my office waiting for a trouble call. One that if what my screens tell me is about as likely as getting hit by an asteroid on my way home from work. Either one could happen, but based on what I am seeing neither one is very likley, at least today.

I am sitting here digesting what I heard this past weekend over the Blizzcon live stream. Actually I am taking that along with all the articles I have read about it over the last several hours.

Speaking of my feed reader sat at nearly two hundred posts when I came in today, and it was empty on Friday. Man, you folks are prolific when you want to be.

The articles pretty much fit into four categories.

  1. Direct coverage of the event. Live blogs, re-posts of Blizzard announcements, attempts at truly unbiased reporting.
  2. Posts claiming that for whatever reason that the game is now well and truly borked. Reasons might range from the destruction of an old favorite zone (WTF is going to happen to Barrens chat? it’ll be two zones…), the simplification of stats and gearing, even the choices of new races can lead to endless QQ.
  3. Posts focusing on how cool everything is going to be in the next phase of the game. Generally going on and on about the particular features the author is most excited about.
  4. Posts that are still focused on whats going on now as opposed to what might or might not happen sometime next year. Basically remember to have fun with the game your playing now, later will take care of itself.

I’ll address them each in order.

Direct coverage is a great and wonderful thing. I gathered a lot of good information this way. I thank those that took time from their own Blizzcon experience to keep the rest of us abreast of things in near real time. My only complaint is certain sites **cough** WoW.com **cough** that do not provide a full story in their RSS feed.

Most sites that do that get dumped from my reader as soon as I find out, Just sayin’.

If you think the sky is falling because of *insert change here* chill out. Nothing has happened yet. There is a real possibility that nothing will, you simply never know. This expansion is not even in beta yet, wait till it is to freak out.

Actually the same could be said about folks who are all stoked about the announced changes. Remember, just because they say it’s coming does not mean it will make it into the game. Dance studio anyone? How about hunter ammo changes?

Now I will agree that playing the game we have now is a good plan. After all it’s not like we can play with the changes yet. We don’t even know when the game will ship, although I am going to break out my magic 8 ball and take a look into the future (or maybe it’ll just tell my to ask again later, you never know with that thing). I kinda like this idea of going with the flow.

 

Here are my thoughts on release dates and why I think what I do. Granted these are all just guesses on my part.

Patch 3.3.0 will go live on December 8th. Just far enough ahead of the Christmas shopping season to give a bit of a nudge to the purchase of game cards as gifts. It will also put fresh content on the table right about the time other games might be found under the tree.

Cataclysm PTR will go up in late March. Pretty much whenever it’s ready.

Patch 3.3.* will be a pre-Cataclysm patch. Some new content, although not much. It will get a lot of the new art into the files and put things in motion for the world event. I also think paid faction changes to become available at this point. This will save a lot on the resources needed for launch day. I expect that to go live on or about April 13th.

Cataclysm (4.0) will ship on May 20th. This would time it just as summer will be starting and school will be ending. It will be just before a holiday weekend (in the US at least). The timing would be good towards getting folks to stick around during the summer a bit more than they have in the past.

I could be totally wrong about all this, but I called the release date of Wrath with a week of being right several months out.

 

Now all that being read and digested I find myself kind of sitting in between all those opinions.

I am not going to freak out about changes that have not happened yet, for better or for worse. That does not mean I won’t do some prep work based on the changes that have been announced.

I am not going to ignore the expansion like it is not even on it’s way. Actually I am looking forward to a lot of the announced changes. There are a few I am not so happy about, but oh well.

I will keep playing the game that we have now, but I will also have an eye towards the future. As an example I give you Dekado. Troll Hunter and my first main. One of the last of my Horde characters, most having been deleted already. He has been retired, drunk in a tavern in Booty Bay, since before Wrath hit.

dekado

This weekend he threw some coffee down the hatch, sobered up, and got back to work.

My friends list is empty, no one has signed into his guild in months, and he is dirt poor. Right now it’s Dekado and Grita against the world… alone.

I am having a good time seeing Northrend from the other side of the fence. If nothing else comes out of this then I’ll get to see new Azeroth through a Trolls eyes as well, then he will go back into retirement.

Then again if everything they are promising comes to pass Dekado will be able to join the rest of my characters on the Alliance side. After seeing his way to 85 as a Troll I think he would make a good Worgen Hunter.

After all, they are all about trying to keep the inner beast in check, and he already has a Wolfslayer.

Cautiously optimistic

Today I am a happy hunter.

There was a time just a few days ago that I actually dropped my subscription to this game we love.

In the “why are you leaving” note that Blizzard requested of me I railed against the inability to enter an instance.  It bothered me enough to vote with my wallet and let them know why.

Right about the same time a far more eloquent blogger than I, one known for his expanded ursine posterior posted about the same topic.

We both offered essentially the same suggestion to Blizzard. Similar to how they handled the issues they had sometime back with battlegrounds we suggested a que system to at least spread the pain out in a more equitable fashion. Apparently Blizzard was thinking along the same lines, but they actually applied what they learned with the BG’s.

They skipped right over the que and went right for the solution that worked for them there. Once upon a time they created cross server battlegrounds. Folks thought it would never work, now it’s just another part of the game. Today they announced (amongst other things) cross server instances.

Pugging 5-mans across servers to relieve the load.

It’s not enough on it’s own to make me resubscribe, but I’ll pick up a game card or two until I see how it works.

I guess you could say I’m cautiously optimistic.

Hunters changes in Cataclysm, scattered thoughts

I am not going to do a play by play of all the changes to my favorite class. If you are reading this I am sure you have already seen more than enough on other blogs. If not consider hitting up some of the more prolific sites, these would be of interest:

MMO-Champion

WoW.com

Official Blizzard Cataclysm site

As I said, I won’t go into all the changes. I am simply going to go into how I think (assuming I think at all) the changes to game mechanics will effect Hunters. The points I see that apply directly to this are:

  • Mana no longer to be used to power our shots, replaced with something very like a Rogue’s energy called focus.
  • Attack power gone on gear (say goodbye to our friend “of the bandit”)
  • AP will now be supplied by Agility.
  • Haste will cause our mana focus to regen faster (I am going to keep calling it mana for a long time. *sigh* stupid brain)
  • Steady Shot will cause focus to regen faster as well.
  • Too many shots are on cooldowns, expect a lot of that to go away. (Woot! I can quit playing the UI and start playing the game again.)

Now those are not nearly all of the changes. They are the tip of the iceberg at best. 

I have already read a few posts where folks are… what’s the word… disgruntled will work I suppose, with the changes. I see it as an interesting change. I look forward to it a lot actually. 

Agility and Haste will very quickly come to pass as our most important stats.

I expect the major theory-crafting sites to have a haste number figured out where you can go balls to the wall Dps and never run out of gas. A point at which the bar will simply fill up faster than you can empty it. I’ll go out on a limb and call this the haste cap.

At the same time more haste will equal more autoshots. More autoshots = more white damage.

Haste will also speed up the casting of Steady Shot which, properly worked into a rotation, will help keep focus levels up.

With more of our shots coming off cooldowns I expect to see a lot more work going into crafting the best shot rotation for each individual player based on how much focus per global cooldown you can afford to spend without running dry.

I believe that with this Hunters will also scale much better with gear than they already do. It will also make it a bit easier to tweak our Dps, as simply adjusting the focus cost of a shot will adjust how we throttle our own Dps.

My expectation is that we will be looking for (in order) Hit (until capped) > Agility > Haste > Stamina > everything else. Now I could very well be wrong, but these are my thoughts based on what I heard on the live stream yesterday. Today is day 2 of Blizzcon, they might very well shoot all this in the foot.

Some people may not be at all happy to hear about the changes, I for one welcome them.

I wonder what surprises today holds?

I give up, the servers win

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

This one wasn’t worth a thousand, more like A hundred and sixty-two. Paraphrased here (because copy/paste failed) is what I told Blizzard when they asked why.

 

I love the World of Warcraft. It has been nearly four years since I first ventured into Azeroth, and it’s been a hellava ride.

The fact is the main reason I pay to play this game is to run instances. Soloing is fun, but not all the time.

For the last several weeks I have not been able to play the game I enjoy. Every time I have tried to run an instance I have ended up doing aerobics trying to get in, all the while being told that additional instances cannot be launched.

People getting in to heroics have reported few issues. Folks walk right into Naxx, Uludar, and the Coliseum.

What this tells me is that their money is worth more than mine.

As a parting suggestion, How about until you get the instance server issue fixed you implement a que system similar to the battlegrounds.

It might be a nuisance, but at least it would be an equal nuisance.

 

I still have a few weeks of time left on my account, if they fix this before then I’ll likely re-subscribe.

If not…. well, I guess i’ll be back when I can actually play again.

Just shut up and eat your vegatables

It should come as no secret that I read a good bit about Wow.

I have even gone so far as to dabble in that swirling troll filled mosh pit known as the official forums.

Players whining and crying because some facet of the game is either being ignored, buffed, nerfed, worked on, left alone, changed, or pretty much anything else. Kind of a mix of Jerry Springer’s show and the anonymity of the interwebs. It’s a wonderful environment.

There are folks on those who must imagine themselves as trial lawyers. People that can take a blue post about how the weather in Anaheim would be nice for a picnic today and twist it into an admission that Blizzard hates <insert class here>. Something to do with the way they mentioned passing out sandwiches.

Now among the topics I have seen come and go there are some that just keep popping up. 

Here’s an example.

 

I have seen posts, many times, calling for various ways to reuse old content. One thing people have suggested has been making level 80 versions of old world instances.

I have read suggestions involving having the instance level scale to the occupants, including the gear that drops. This premise was basically to use the same type calculator they had for BoA items and just lock in the stats at the time the item drops.

I have read long well thought out posts that were all rainbows and sunshine about wanting to make use of all those old instances. Of wanting to see the content while it was challenging and yet actually be able to find a group. 

 

Well, holy crap. Blizzard listened.

In the soon to be tested patch 3.2.2 Onixya is getting a face lift.

  • The mechanics are being changed to support a 10 and 25 player version of level 80 raiding, as opposed to the 40 player level 60 format.
  • Some of the loot will be adjusted to make it actually desirable for level 80 characters.
  • A shiny new 310% dragon flying mount will drop there (although very rarely)
  • They don’t mention it, but the meeting stone will likely go to being accessible to level 80′s.
  • And more stuff I am not going to get into right now.

See what they did there?

They took some well designed yet outdated old content and updated it for modern times. They gave us something else to do, another option for those who want to take it. Blizz actually gave players what they asked for. They actually do that quite a bit.

Where I come from it’s called customer service.

Lo and behold, there was great rejoicing and dancing in the streets right?  

Actually no.

 

Most of what I have read so far boils down to the accusation that Blizzard is too lazy to actually design new content.

Since they are way too busy doing other things they are just recycling old stuff. The claim is that it all started with Naxx and it will just keep snowballing from there. I even read someone predicting that in the next expansion we will be raiding level 90 Wailing Caverns.

Then again most of the people that are bitching about it are the same folks who are always bitching about having nothing to do.

Or about how badge gear is going to ruin the game.

Or going back and forth like an old Reese’s cup ad about how “you got your PvP on my PvE!, no you got your PvE on my PvP!”

Or about how they used to have to walk through Stranglethorn Vale, uphill, both ways, with no flight points, without heirloom gear, with a raptor clamped firmly to their left butt cheek.

I can almost see some of these folks in their rocking chair on the front porch  talking about “the good old days”. Back when people showed them the proper respect while they stood outside the bank in Orgrimmar. The respect they deserved for having a bunch of epics.

Then again, they sometimes remind me of spoiled children. They want to have their cake and eat it too.

Sad thing is, I do it just as much as anyone else. I want to skip over everything else and head straight for dessert, but this time I think I’ll just shut up and eat my vegetables.

You never know, they might be pretty tasty.

The Gathering Storm

For those that have followed Robert Jordan’s series The Wheel of Time I have some good news.

The Gathering Storm, the long awaited 12th book in the series now has an official release date.

After Mr. Jordans death the series was continued by Brandon Sanderson, the talented author of the Mistborne series (amongst other things).

Based on a post on Mr. Sandersons blog the release date for The gathering storm will be Tuesday, October 27th. Well, that’s the date in the US and Canada, he was not sure of others at this point.

Links to reviews as well as any other updates, can be found at his site.

That’s it for the moment, just sharing some news =)

I should just go ahead and flame myself for thinking this

I was reading an excellent post  (one with excellent comments going on I might add) over on Stabilized Effort Scope. Rilgon goes a bit into the hot topic of Pve vs PvP balance. Actually this started off life as a comment on his site, but kinda just kept getting bigger.

In particular he is bemoaning the fact that certain classes and/or specs are being nerfed into the ground from a Pve standpoint simply in an effort to balance things out in PvP. Arena PvP in particular, since the slightest imbalance there is a major advantage.

I may not be an arena player, in this game at least, but I understand PvP balance. I understand not wanting Pve changes to cause any one character to dominate in a PvP situation.

I can also look at it from the other side. As Rilgon says, when was the last time you saw a raiding frost mage? How about a subtlety rogue? Why should some Pve players not be able to play the spec that they prefer because it can be overpowering in arena?

 

I should learn from watching when others have tried to be reasonable about this that it could get a bit heated. Actually it often ends up downright hostile. Actually, I assume I will get flamed for this no matter what I say. 

Well, I never said I was the sharpest tool in the shed, so I am going to write this anyway.  

I am going to look at it from my own standpoint. Not as a player but as a person who fixes things for a living.

First thing is to figure out the problem, you can’t fix things until you know what’s broken. The way I see it there are several problems. There are probably more that I am missing, but as I said I am not an arena player.

  • Changes to any talent or class mechanic will effect PvP and PvE disproportionately.
  • Top end PvP arena gear and top end PvE raid gear are forced to stay roughly equal to avoid forcing players to PvP for their raid gear, or vice versa.
  • Top end PvP gear is only available to those who arena. Blizz is working on a better reward system for battlegrounds. It should be available soon (c). This causes frustration among some folks who would like to start playing in arenas but can’t get good enough gear to be competitive. I happen to be one of them, I am waiting on Cataclysm for the gear reset.
  • Blizz is trying to balance using only talent and class mechanics changes. Yet those effect both PvP and PvE equally. They are then forced to juggle changes to mechanics and try to balance these changes out with talents and glyphs. All this in an effort to balance everything for everyone. 
  • In reality gear imbalances effect performance nearly as much as anything else. Don’t believe me? try to arena in the blue PvP gear, it will end badly. Probably as badly as showing up in to a hard mode raid in quest blues.

Now I am not going to say that my idea this is the only solution, but I do see it as one. As an added bonus the functionality is already in the game for the most part.

Locker rooms.

The prospective arena player zones into a locker room with vendors similar to that on the tournament realm. Select the armor you want from one vendor, the weapons from another, gems from a third, and enchants from a fourth. 

Yes this would kill my own ability to make money as my cash cows of the moment are Enchanting and Jewelcrafting.

Anyhow, you select your gear, gem and enchant it, and save it to the in game outfitter. All for the cost of being on an arena team. This is the gear you will zone in with anytime you are appear in an arena. The trick is you don’t use it outside the arena.

You still get arena points, you still get honor, you still get PvP gear that requires arena points to purchase to use out in the world, you still get titles and drakes and all the bells and whistles. You just don’t get to wear your arena fighting gear outside the arena.

The way I see it this would do several things for us, mostly good.

  • Arena play would become much easier for Blizz to balance, as the gear would be able to be adjusted as well as talents and class mechanics.
  • PvE gear could also be adjusted to equalize the PvE effectiveness of certain classes/specs without effecting arena balance. Think set bonuses and stat allocation.
  • It would be easier for entry level players to enter arena play as the gear gap would only exist in the world outside arena.
  • Players who prefer arena PvP would get a true test of skill, as everyone would be geared equally.
  • Players who prefer one play style over another would not be forced to play the other for an item that would give them an advantage in their preferred play style.
  • Arena players would still benefit greatly over folks in world PvP and battlegrounds as they could use their points and honor to buy PvP-centric gear to wear out in the world.

 

Does it seem like I am persecuting arena players? If so, let me make it clear that it is not my intention.  The way I see it everyone would enjoy the same rewards as they currently do. The only difference I see is that with arena combat gear freely available, but used only in arena, the classes would be much easier to balance both in and out of that environment.

No one loses anything, it simply gives the develpers a few more tools to use in tweaking both the PvP and PvE playstyles while causing as little effect as possible on each other.

Everyone wins.

Shiny and new

This weekend my family reached yet another milestone. The youngest of my three kids rounded the backstretch on his childhood. He is now thirteen and joins my two girls as a teenager.

Five more years till they are all adults. (legally at least)

Egad I feel old.

However, that is not what this post is about.

Three years ago when I first started playing I told my kids that they could not play until they were teenagers. That whole “game experience may change during online play” thing? All three of them had friends playing, but as I kept telling them “your friends don’t live in my house”.

For three years my son talked about playing. He has watched over my shoulder, he has seen everything from hours of fishing to the battle for Mt. Hyjal.

He picked up on what stats go for what class. He knows how professions work together. He knows how to use Wowhead to find things out instead of asking me (or his grandma, she might be healing Naxx or something). In short, the boy did his homework.

So he rolled up a trio of toons on the kids account over the weekend. An Alliance Warrior to run with me and a pair of Horde toons (an Undead Warrior banker and a  Troll Hunter to level). I can tell you without a doubt running through the starting zones with him was one of the most fun things I have done in game in a long time.

Dailies were forgotten, the AH was left unscanned, the only time I logged into one of my higher levels was to fire us off some six slot bags (and a little cash for me).

 

*snapshots*

Seeing how much fun he was having smacking around Defias in Elwynn was a hoot.

The chuckle he got out of me when he asked whether Goldshire was a major city.

Telling him a half second too late not to fight back against the Horde that were there griefing the lowbies, then explaining why waiting five minutes to log back in was a good idea.

The excitement in his voice when he got his first ever green item (an “of the bear” axe he was actually able to use)

Listening to the wonder in his voice as he saw Stormwind for the first time.

 

It was like jumping back three years to the time I shared the wonder of discovery. I was transported back to a time before raids, before doing a half hour of algebra to decide whether item X was an upgrade over item Y or not, back to a time when everything was shiny and new.

It reminded me of a saying about vacations my dad always used to tell me. “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”

During my vacation from reality in the world of Azeroth I could do worse than listening to that advice.

Failure to launch

Normally I don’t do posts with math in them, it’s just not my style. Today however I think I am going to make an exception. I am going to do a bit of real life theorycrafting.

Before I get into what some might simply call Blizzard bashing I am going to point out that I am not complaining. I am simply calling things as I see them.

Blizzard, particularly since the Activision merger, has been much more of a presence on the forums. For all they do and say there however, not much really is happening with the game as a whole.

Remember, generally when someone spends a lot of time and effort telling you things are great there is a reason. Like, for instance, things are not great. Perhaps with a good PR campaign and a little smoke an mirriors can buy some time for things to turn around. Think used car salesman.

Another thing to remember is that they are a for profit company. While WoW is most certainly the cash cow of the moment it is their past, not their future.

The mission of the company is not to keep us playing WoW forever, they know that cannot happen. There is a WoW killer out there, somewhere, in development right now. Their job is to make sure that they are the ones who produce it.

I get that, I really really do.

They need to make sure that we go from WoW to their next generation MMO. That’s how they are going to keep getting paid. In the long run, if we all go elsewhere there are folks developing for WoW right now who will be out of a job.

That would suck, and I don’t wish that on anyone.

Blizzard states that there are over 11 million subscribers to the wonderful World of Warcraft that we all play. That is a beautiful thing. After all at $15 a month each that means they are pulling in 5.5 million dollars a day on subscriptions alone.

Surely a good portion of that money goes into developing new content and maintaining the hardware that allows it to function, right?

Something tells me no.

launch

Please send one of the interns down to Best Buy and pick up a few more instance servers.

 

What I think we are seeing with Wrath is an attempt to string us along, spending as little as possible, until their next game can be launched.

Once it is I fully expect it to slowly get worse, not better.

Why, you ask?

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. They don’t want us playing WoW a few years from now, they want us on the next gen MMO.

 

Think of them as farmers.

If they don’t rotate their crops to a new field every so often the fields will slowly stop producing as all the good in the soil is used up. If that happens the harvest fails than the kidlets starve.

World of Warcraft is the old feild, and we are the crops.

They are pouring just enough fertilizer into the field to keep us going while they get the next field ready. Soon it will be time to transplant us over, the better to farm us.

The new field will be all shiny and new, with brand new equipment and fertile soil. The crops will be much happier there.

The old field will be left fallow, perhaps with the occasional truck full of fertilizer spread out on top.

Just remember what fertalizer is made of.

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